Skin Infections: Cleaning the Image of Collegiate Wrestling
Dec. 5, 2004
Brian Dallas, ATC-L
The field of athletic training has many job responsibilities within an athletic department, all of which are directly or indirectly related to helping athletes perform at their optimal level of performance. For a wrestling team, there is no better way to get an athlete in proper shape and condition than to bring them into a wrestling room and let them "have at it" with teammates. In order to help these athletes perform, it is necessary to limit the amount of days away from practice, especially when an injury occurs.
Herpes gladiatorum and tinea corporis, otherwise know as ringworm, are the two major skin infections that require time away from the wrestling room. They are both common with collegiate wrestlers due to the direct skin-to-skin contact between an infected wrestler and a noninfected wrestler. In order to help reduce the likelihood of athletes contracting these skin lesions, there must be cooperation between all involved within the sport of wrestling.
Herpes gladiaorium (HG) is caused by a virus, herpes simplex I. The virus is highly contagious through direct skin contact with the lesions. Any area of broken skin is particularly vulnerable. The most common sites for contracting HG are the neck, face and arms. The skin lesion is one of a group of small blisters called vesicles on a base of reddened skin. Many times these lesions are accompanied by other symptoms such as sore throat, fever, fatigue and swollen gums. While the skin lesions are acute, the wrestler may not participate and the lesions should not be touched without wearing protective gloves. The athlete may wrestle when all scabs have dried and there is pink skin.
Herpetic skin lesions can heal without medication. However, an antiviral medicine such as Acyclovir can speed up the healing course and greatly reduce the ability to be contagious. Because HG is an incurable disease with common recurrences, team physicians will sometimes prescribe prophylactic medication, meaning an athlete will begin taking medications even though there is no current outbreak, thus reducing the risk of outbreaks occurring during the season.
Tinea infections are much more common. They are caused by a fungus. Common areas to see tinea are the neck and arms. Typical lesions have a raised border and are often in a circular pattern. Redness is variable. Usually inside the border is less pronounced. There is some fine scale but no itching. There may be multiple lesions or a single one.
Tinea corporis has different treatment options once diagnosed. A physician has the option of using an oral medication or topical antifungal cream. Creams are sometimes used when only one lesion is seen on the body.
Prevention is the key to effectively combating skin infections in wrestling. It takes a team effort to be successful. Let's look at all the groups involved.
It's the coach's responsibility for proper upkeep of the wrestling area and equipment. This means making sure that all mats are properly taped down to the floor, and any cuts or openings in the mat are cleaned and covered to prevent bacteria formation. Due to the coach's relationship with his athletes, it also becomes his responsibility to make sure team members are mopping the mats at least once a day.
Certified Athletic Trainers
NCAA wrestling and sports medicine has certain rules that all athletic trainers must follow when allowing athletes to compete with any type of skin lesions. It is the responsibility of each teams' athletic trainer to make sure that these rules and regulations are being followed to help not only their athletes, but those they compete against.
In order to help protect athletes from coming in contact with these diseases, there are many options that the athletic trainer can attempt. First they may require that all athletes prior to competition or practice apply a skin protection lotion (Ken shield for example). These lotions are applied to any exposed skin just prior to competition and can help protect athletes from some of the bacterial infections that occur.
If any medications are prescribed for the athlete to take after a medical diagnosis has been reached, it is sometimes the responsibility of the athletic trainer to make sure an athlete is able to obtain and finish them. The athletic trainer also helps to make sure that there are no negative reactions to the medications.
As the wrestling team athletic trainer, it is my responsibility to make sure that the different team members are completing all of these steps. Acting as the median between different groups helps to create a clear communication between team members and helps make sure that all members are working towards the same common goal: to protect all athletes from these diseases.